The end of December and the end of year are rapidly approaching, but as a reminder of the things that occurred over the past 12 months, we present the Pasco County 2012 month-at-glance calendar:
Play Santa: Pasco County government started the year with a $300,000 bill from the holidays after a commission majority, following the lead of Henry Wilson, decided at their final meeting of 2011 to grant their employees an extra day off on Dec. 23. It meant pulling money from three separate accounts to cover the unbudgeted overtime for firefighters, ambulance crews and utilities workers.
Play Grinch: A Land O' Lakes High School Spanish teacher, later fired by the district, gained access to students' Facebook accounts to find out if they were saying mean things about her. Teacher Angelica Cruikshank punished teens who had posted disparaging remarks about her by barring them from a field trip.
Listen up in the huddle: To capitalize on sports tourism, Stephen Rodriguez, vice president of the Florida Sports Foundation, said that Pasco County had a sufficient inventory of soccer fields and should consider investing in a large-scale softball complex or building a 40,000-square-foot gymnasium/recreation center. A few months later, commissioners committed $14 million to building 20 fields, including a dozen rectangular soccer/lacrosse fields, at Wiregrass Ranch.
Redefine that "No new tax" pledge: Port Richey Mayor Richard Robert announced his resignation from office amid a federal investigation of tax evasion. Rober and his wife, Averill, later admitted hiding from the Internal Revenue Service more than $239,000 – revenue from the water testing and treatment company they used to owned. Both are now serving federal prison sentences and must pay the IRS $55,305.
Pay attention to the horoscope: ''It's like we are on different planets at this point," New Port Richey City Manager Schneiger wrote in an e-mail describing the diverse viewpoints of the city and a private company, Advanced Research Institute, seeking after-the-fact permission to open its medical facility in New Port Richey. The company, incidentally, employed council member Judy DeBella Thomas for marketing. The matter remains unresolved. Schneiger is no longer city manager.
Be a better judge of character: Zephyrhills voters picked local high school principal Steve Van Gorden as their new mayor in the April election. By November, Van Gorden faced a City Council impeachment after his resignation from his school job amid a school district investigation of sexual harassment complaints against him. He resigned the mayoral post in December.
Provide lip service: At a morning meeting, Pasco commissioners honored two groups for their work to benefit homeless veterans and to provide health care to the homeless. That afternoon, a commission majority of Ted Schrader, Jack Mariano and Henry Wilson voted to kill a homeless shelter in east Pasco.
Tout campaign qualifications: Former County Commissioner Ed Collins filed to run as a write-in candidate for Pasco school superintendent, closing the GOP primary exclusively to voters registered as Republicans. Only Republican voters are qualified to vote in Republican primaries, Collins said. Qualifications, however, were at a minimum for some of the actual candidates. Before the end of the campaign season, those running included a Moon Lake handyman once charged with attempting to solicit an undercover police officer for prostitution and a Dade City government gadfly who originally filed as a write-in for District 5 county commission, but worried about meeting the residency requirements of living in Hudson.
See if Collins thinks they're qualified: In the four months after Kurt Browning announced his bid to challenge Collins' pal, incumbent schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino, 1,425 voters switched their party affiliation to Republican so they could vote in the Aug. 14 primary.
See if they're friends of Heather's: Of the 1,425 party-switchers, more than 300 were current or recent school district employees or their family members.
Check if hell is freezing over: The National Rifle Association announced it was endorsing the opponent of gun-rights advocate Bill Bunting in the race for Pasco Republican State Committeeman.
Reread the fact sheet: Rachel O'Conner, Republican candidate for County Commission, erroneously claimed the Pasco County government budget had doubled in three years, then she blamed the same county government for her faux pas. "When you try to get insight with the county administration, they're not the easiest to work with," she said.
Attend fashion show: A television news station aired an interview with Property Appraiser Mike Wells in his underwear after knocking on Wells' front door and asking why he wasn't at work in the middle of the afternoon.
Schedule permanent vacation: Schneiger, the New Port Richey city manager, volunteered to a community gathering that he needed a respite from city budget issues and looked forward to tackling other non-fiscal issues. He put in 10 more work days before departing city government.
Stock up on bottled water: Commissioners Schrader and Pat Mulieri voted to put a gas station near a well that produces up to 2 million gallons of water daily for the regional drinking water supply. Fortunately, a commission majority, following the logic of county staff, Tampa Bay Water, the county's own environmental protection rules, and common sense, overruled them.
Double check the address: A lawyer for former Port Richey City Manager Ellen Posivach told a circuit judge his process server had been unable to deliver a legal complaint to incoming state Sen. John Legg who has a residence, legislative office and charter school in west Pasco. Posivach contended Legg defamed her by publicly criticizing a severance package she sought from the city upon her termination. Legg later denied ducking a process service and pointed out Posivach's attorney, John Shahan, was reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court for failing to properly serve defendants in a different case.
Plan animal funeral: The Pasco Sheriff's Office investigated complaints that the husband of Mulieri was tardy in burying dead cows on their Gowers Corner property. Deputies had been called to the site a week earlier to investigate Jimmy Mulieri's complaint that the cattle had been poisoned. No charges were filed in either case.
Avoid commentary writer's wrath: A month after the November election, and four months after the August primary, campaign signs remained on Pasco's roadsides including political clutter for Mitt Romney, Connie Mack, Ted Schrader, Mike Wells, Allison Newlon, Penny for Pasco, Joseph Poblick, Brian Battaglia, Randy Holm, Gary Joiner, Heather Fiorentino, Joshua Griffin, Gus Bilirakis, and Paul Elliott.
Clean it up!
It's a good way to start the new year.